Michael Wiblishauser

Michael Wiblishauser

The hot summer days are quickly upon us. Many of us will soon be engaging in fun activities in the hot summer sun.

The summer sun and its ultraviolet rays can cause not only sunburns but may also cause deadly skin cancer. The ultraviolet rays permeate the skin tissue and may cause abnormal cell replication. This cell replication is the mechanism for cancer.

When it comes to skin damage, skin cancer is the type of damage that kills thousands of Americans on a yearly basis. There exist three general types of cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Melanoma is by far the deadliest of the three cancer types. Melanoma kills more people than the two other cancers combined.

While skin cancer can strike anyone, some individuals are at a greater risk.

Individuals who have many moles throughout their bodies as well as those who either are fair skinned or blue-eyed or have blonde or red hair; workers who have jobs in the outdoor environment, and children, especially infants, are at a greater risk for skin damage.

According to the Skin Cancer foundation, there are some effective measures that you can take to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer:

  • Find a place with shade – If you need to be outside for whatever reason, try to find shade on a periodic basis. Try to limit your outside activities to before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • Try to avoid getting a sunburn – Easier said than done. Use an appropriate Sun Protection Factor 15 lotion on bare or exposed skin, hats and sunglasses.
  • Avid tanning beds – They also can cause skin cancer.
  • Use sunscreen – If you use sunscreen, use a sunscreen which has at least SPF 15. If you need to be outside for extended time periods, use a sunscreen with SPF 30.
  • Keep infants and children out of the sun – They are not only more at risk for damage, but sun damage early in life can lead to an increased risk of cancer later in life.
  • Examine your skin from head to toe – Look for any skin growth discoloration or any abnormal mole growth.

Conduct a monthly check of your skin. You should look for a skin growth that is abnormal or large compared to other skin growths. Look for any jagged edges on the skin growth.

Other warning signs include if the skin growth is of different colors or if any skin growth, particularly a mole, recently has grown in diameter.

If you suspect something that is irregular, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Most skin cancers are not deadly if caught in the early stages.

For more information, please visit the Skin Cancer Foundation at skincancer.org.

Michael Wiblishauser, PhD, CHES is an Assistant Professor of Health Studies at the University of Houston-Victoria.

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